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New digs for St. Martin Parish

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Posted: Monday, October 8, 2012 2:00 pm

ST. MARTINVILLE — Seven years and about $11 million later, people packed into the newly renovated St. Martin Parish Courthouse for its official dedication Sunday.

“This building is more than just a building,” St. Martin Parish President Guy Cormier said. “It’s our people, our history, it’s our culture.”

Cormier said it took different levels of government coming together to allow everyone to celebrate Sunday.

Assistant District Attorney for the 16th Judicial District Chester Cedars spoke during the dedication ceremony and gave a run down of all the obstacles the parish encountered as it pursued the project.

St. Martin Parish residents approved a property tax renewal in 2005 by about 68 percent of the to generate revenue the parish could use to leverage $7.9 million in bonds.

Then hurricanes Rita and Katrina hit, inflating construction costs and changing projected costs from $7.9 million to $11 million.

When Cormier decided to request help from the state to fund the remainder of the project, he, state Sen. Fred Mills, then a parish council member, and other St. Martin Parish delegates made their pitch to then Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco.

Mills and Blanco also attended the dedication Sunday, with Blanco presenting the keynote address.

Blanco talked about her memories of St. Martinville, spending summers in its theaters and teenage years making Sunday trips from New Iberia with friends.

“I feel like it’s part of my life,” she said.

She said she was willing to support giving the parish money for the courthouse because of how willing the community was to support the project.

“This community made a big financial commitment,” she said. “If there’s some local commitment, then the state can help.”

District Judge Paul deMahy read resolutions passed by the Parish Council dedicating courtroom one as the Simon Courtroom for the four generations of men who were seated as district judges with two moving on to serve on the State Supreme Court.

Courtroom three was dedicated as the Williams Courtroom for the late Judge Carl J. Williams.

Cormier said the most important part of designing the new courthouse was listening to input from those who would be using the building and maintaining the historic elements of the antebellum structure.

“It was very important for us to respect our history and to restore with the future in mind,” Cormier said.

But his work isn’t over. Cormier said the parish intends to create an employee parking area and remove a trailer behind the Clerk of Court office to create a green space dedicated to former deputy assessor and Clerk of Court Allen Blanchard Sr., who died in 2011.

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